The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday May 19th

Freshman Sharpshooter Excels in 1st Games as Tar Heel

The seconds on the clock ticked down.

Despite a gesture from assistant coach Andrew Calder indicating she should hold the ball, Jessica Sell could not resist. A slight smile crept across her face as she put up a shot from the backcourt.

This time there was no familiar swish of the net for the shooting pro. But Jessica Sell didn't hang her head over the missed basket, nor did the crowd cheer any less emphatically after UNC's win.

Although she said afterward she felt bad about taking the shot, which she feared might have been misconstrued as poor sportsmanship, the move could be chalked up to her competitive edge.

"If I'm out there on the floor, I'm going to give it all I have no matter how I feel or what the score is," she said.

A new addition to the UNC women's basketball team, Jessica Sell is relentless. A hand in her opponent's face, a swished 3-point shot -- there is no room for slack play when she plays like the score is always 0-0.

On Sunday against East Tennessee State, she proved that, leading UNC with 20 points and five assists.

But her percentages were even more impressive. Sunday, she shot 72.7 percent from the floor, 50 percent from the 3-point range and 100 percent from the foul line.

"I think she's a great athlete, a pure shooter," said UNC guard Coretta Brown. "She brought her own into it, and now she's picking up bit by bit, and that just goes with learning Carolina's system."

The combination of her shooting and ball-handling skills prompted UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell to recruit Jessica Sell.

"She played like that in high school," Hatchell said. "West Virginia is not known as a girl's basketball state, so she was really sort of hidden a little bit, a sleeper."

Jessica Sell was far from a secret at North Marion High School in Rachel, W.Va., where she played for her father, Rick Sell. "When she played for me, she'd have four fouls right off the bat," he said. "She'd play the entire game, but she knew how to maintain that balance. She's got to do that here."

She didn't break any habits last weekend. On Sunday, she played with four fouls. Her second occurred when she fought to take the ball away from Buccaneer Misty Copas. As soon as the whistle blew, a look of pure shock crossed Jessica Sell's face. Less than 30 seconds later, she got a third for a similar charge.

Rick Sell, who hasn't missed a game yet, tapes it all with his video camera. He and his daughter used to review the tape after high school games, a tradition that stopped when Jessica Sell swore the rewind button on the VCR was going to get stuck from the constant backtracking.

"Now he's more like my friend, not so much my coach figure, but my dad, the person I go to for encouragement," she said. "(But) he can watch the tape by himself from now on."

Maybe one day he'll record her game-winning shot -- that is, if she decides to take it. After Sunday's last-minute decision, the freshman is only concerned in doing what will benefit the team.

"Maybe if it were Duke, and we were up by one and there was one second to go, maybe something like that to seal off a victory. We'll just have to wait and see."

The Sports Editor can be reached at sports@unc.edu.

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